What Is Required to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Medical malpractice cases are among the most complicated personal injury claims that one can file. Medical malpractice lawsuits often involve expert testimony about complicated issues like the standard of care and causation. Though the exact requirements for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can vary from state to state, almost every state follows common procedural steps that must be followed to initiate a lawsuit.
Defining Medical Malpractice
In order to have a viable medical malpractice claim, an injured patient must prove that their medical provider committed malpractice. Medical malpractice is generally defined as medical treatment that falls below a generally-accepted standard of care and that causes harm or injury to the patient. Thus, even if a medical professional makes a mistake, it is legally not malpractice if that mistake was within the acceptable standard of care and/or if the patient suffered no harm as a result of the mistake.
In most cases, the plaintiff’s expert witness will testify that a “similarly-skilled medical professional, under the same or similar circumstances in this case” would have to take some action or set or range of actions. The expert will further testify how the plaintiff’s medical provider’s conduct did not fall within this set or range of acceptable actions, and how the failure to perform under this range or set of actions caused the patient’s harm or injury.
The “Affidavit of Merit”
Many states require, as a condition of filing a court complaint alleging medical malpractice, to simultaneously file an affidavit from an expert. Depending on the state, the affidavit may require the expert to state what the exact standard of care was in your particular treatment situation and how your medical provider breached that standard. Other states may simply require the expert to state that he or she has reviewed your case and is certifying that it has merit as a medical malpractice claim.
Depending on the state, in limited circumstances you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice suit even if your state requires the filing of an affidavit of merit. These circumstances typically involve cases where the medical provider’s negligence is so obvious to common understanding that an expert’s opinion is unnecessary, such as the case of a surgeon leaving equipment inside a patient. However, if you choose to file a lawsuit without an affidavit of merit and the court later determines your case requires one, it may result in the permanent dismissal of your lawsuit. A medical malpractice attorney can advise you whether your case requires an affidavit of merit and how much obtaining the affidavit may cost.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Again, not every treatment that leads to the harm of a patient constitutes medical malpractice. Examples of viable medical malpractice claims can include:
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to monitor a patient’s vital signs during a procedure
- Failing to account for all instruments at the end of surgery
- Medication errors
- Allowing bed sores to form due to lack of care
- Injuring a patient due to improper lifting or moving techniques
Other scenarios that may seem like medical malpractice may not be malpractice. For example, a doctor’s failure to timely diagnose a condition may not be malpractice if another similarly-skilled doctor would also not have timely diagnosed the condition under similar circumstances.
Contact a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Case in Pennsylvania
Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at the Marrone Law Firm, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Center City, University City. Call us today at (866) 732-6700 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 200 S. Broad St., #400, Philadelphia, PA, 19102 and we also have offices in Cherry Hill, NJ
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.